War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 6 – May 30, 2017


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 6
May 30, 2017

Editor-in-Chief
James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

AMERICAS

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING


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United Kingdom’s terror threat level lowered to “severe” in wake of Manchester terror attack

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe 

A vigil is held in central Manchester to honor the victims of Monday’s attack. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – Five days after the devastating events of May 22 in Manchester, England, British Prime Minister Teresa May lowers the terror threat level from “critical” to “severe”. Wounded survivors are treated by medical staff in hospitals in the city. Families begin the grieving process after losing their loved ones.

It is the aftermath of another terror attack that has shaken the world. This time, during the closing set of American pop star Ariana Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom.

Late Monday night, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in the space between the Manchester Arena and the Victoria train station.

The blast led to the deaths of 22 people, with reports of 59 others left wounded, some critically.

Reports suggest that this is the worst attack in the United Kingdom since the London Underground bombing of 2005.

The concert venue was filled to capacity with Ms. Grande’s fans. The majority of the concertgoers were young women and teenagers. In the aftermath, a nearby hotel opened up its doors for those who were looking for family members.

Though the Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, this has not been verified. The British authorities continue to investigate and make arrests on those they find were involved in the planning of the attack. As of May 27, 11 people are currently detained in connection with the events.

Terrorism is used as a way to threaten the rights of others through violence and fear. Some have seen this attack as an attack on young women, who were the predominant patrons of the concert. Some find it as a general threat against democracy and individual freedoms.

Yet others are using the events to fuel hate crimes against others as they affiliate terrorism with a specific religion. The Greater Manchester Police told the BBC News on Wednesday that reports on hate crimes doubled from 28 to 56 after Monday’s attack. These included a bomb threat to a school after students were asked if they were Muslim.

Mohammed Ullah, Muslim chaplain of Manchester’s Metropolitan University told the BBC, he “encourage[s] the people to remain undivided.”

Ms. Grande would likely echo this sentiment. Upon her return to the United States, she sent a message out on her Instagram.

“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she writes.

“We will continue to honor the ones we lost.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Manchester attack: Hate crime ‘doubles’ after incident – 27 May 2017

CBC News – U.K. lowers threat level as 2 more bomb suspects arrested – 27 May 2017

NBC News – Britain’s Terror Threat Level Reduced to ‘Severe’ After Raids Linked to Manchester Bombing – 27 May 2017

The New York Times – The Latest on the Manchester Bombing Investigation – 24 May 2017

Reuters – Twenty in critical condition after Monday’s Manchester bombing – 24 May 2017

CNBC  – Manchester Arena suicide bombing: 22 die at Ariana Grande concert – 23 May 2017

CNN – 22 dead after blast at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester – 23 May 2017

NPR – Why I Think The Manchester Attack Was Aimed At Women And Girls – 24 May 2017

Ariana Grande – Instagram Photo – 26 May 2017 

Syria Deeply: This Week in Syria

 

 

May. 26th, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

Last Homs evacuations: The final rebel evacuations from al-Waer, the last remaining rebel-held neighborhood in Homs city, were completed over the weekend, giving the Syrian government complete control of the city.

Nearly 3,000 people were bused out of the city, including some 700 fighters and their families, and were transferred to rebel-held areas of Idlib province or the northern Syrian city of al-Jarablus. Homs provincial governor Talal Barazi told AFP that roughly 1,150 fighters chose to stay in the city and hand over their weapons.

Al-Waer has been under a government-imposed siege since 2013. Just two days after the government regained control of Homs, at least four were killed and 32 injured in a car bomb in the al-Zahra neighborhood.

The civilian cost in the fight against ISIS: The U.S.-led coalition ramped up airstrikes in Syria this month and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) closed in on Raqqa in the fight against ISIS. Civilians, however, paid a much higher price.

At least 100 people were killed in airstrikes believed to be carried out by the U.S.-led coalition Thursday night and Friday in al-Mayadin, an ISIS-held town in Deir Ezzor, according to Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Activists also say U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on Wednesday on the village of Baruda, 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of Raqqa, killed at least 16 civilians, many of whom were displaced in the weekend’s evacuation from Homs province.

Coalition airstrikes between April 23 and May 23 killed at least 225 civilians, including 44 children and 36 women, according to SOHR. The Observatory also noted that during this same period coalition actions killed at least 122 ISIS militants and pro-government forces and Syrian government warplanes and helicopters killed at least 146 civilians.

The civilian death toll climbed in tandem with the number of coalition actions in Syria. April saw the highest number of coalition airstrikes in Syria – 548 – since the air campaign against ISIS began in 2014, according to Airways, a monitoring group that tracks civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria.

Four days after solidifying its grip on Homs city, the Syrian army on Thursday said it had gained control of areas south of Palmyra east of Qaryatayn in southeastern Homs province from ISIS. The army also said it killed the militant group’s “minister of war,” Abu Musab al-Masri, in an attack in northern Syria.

Elsewhere in northern Syria, in the town of al-Bab where Turkish-backed forces pushed ISIS out of in February, the contaminated water supply has caused an outbreak of typhoid fever that is “simply beyond the city’s capabilities,” Dr. Mohammad Ismail, who runs a clinic inside the city that is treating some 10-15 new cases a day, told Syria Direct.

Escalation Zone: The Syrian army’s advance on ISIS in Homs province may not be solely to push militants out of the area. The advance brings pro-government forces closer to areas controlled by U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria’s southern provinces.

Clashes continued this week between rebels and pro-government forces in the desert area known as the Badia, north of al-Tanf base where the U.S. and U.K. are training Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS. On Monday, the Free Syrian Army launched a campaign to “cleanse the Badia of Iranian and foreign militias,” according to Syria Direct.

Last week, pro-government forces advance near al-Tanf base on Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan following a rebel operation that cleared ISIS out of the area. In response to the advance, U.S.-led coalition warplanes hit a the pro-government convoy advancing what the Pentagon called “an established de-confliction zone.”

Though the exact coordinates of the four safe zones proposed in Russia, Turkey and Iran’s Astana agreement will only be announced June 4, rebel-held areas of Daraa province were included in “de-escalation” plan. However, on Wednesday, Syrian warplanes and helicopters carried out at least 12 airstrikes and nine barrel bomb attacks on rebel-held parts Daraa city, according to the Associated Press.

 

Read our daily Executive Summaries

 

 

MOST POPULAR

This Week’s Top Articles

 

ARTS & CULTURE

Graphic Novels, Games Bring Syrian Refugees’ Stories to New Audiences

Recent mobile app games, comics and graphic novels are seeking to bring refugee voices to the fore through these new mediums for information-sharing and storytelling.

 

ARTICLES

Intrepid Sisters Reveal How ISIS Depends on Role of Women

Two forensic social workers who visit Lebanon’s notorious Roumieh prison gained a rare insight through inmates into the activity of female ISIS supporters, whose roles go far beyond that of wives.

 

 

EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight

 

DISPLACEMENT

Turkey Is Missing Out on an Opportunity to Integrate Syrian Refugees

Saleem al-Omar,  Freelance Journalist

 

Syrian refugees in Turkey hoped the ruling AKP party would use their victory in last month’s constitutional referendum to grant citizenship and labor rights to more refugees. So far, they have been sorely disappointed, writes Saleem al-Omar for the Atlantic Council.

 

DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The West’s Limited Options to Help Reconstruction in Syria

Steven Heydemann,  Janet Wright Ketcham Professor in Middle East Studies, Smith College

 

As using reconstruction support as leverage would be unrealistic, Western engagement in Syria’s recovery should focus on shielding programs from the regime and working with trusted local actors, argues Professor Steven Heydemann.

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

A Syrian Family Reunites: One Flight Away, The Journey of a Lifetime

Mia Bennett,  Researcher, Health and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch

 

In the first of a two-part commentary on family reunification, Bethany Brown of Human Rights Watch and photojournalist Anna Pantelia document a Syrian family’s final days in Greece before heading to Germany to reunite with their father after nearly two years apart.

 

 

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Planning for Post-Conflict Governance in Raqqa

SJAC Update | May 25, 2017
Syrian Democratic Forces affiliated fighters in Manbij | Photo Credits: Flickr, Kurdishstruggle

Planning for Post-Conflict Governance in Raqqa

On May 9, as part of the  effort to take back the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), the United States decided  to arm Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to representatives of the SDF, once liberated, governance will fall to the Raqqa Civilian Council, an administrative body consisting of predominantly Kurds and Arabs. While Kurdish officials have made assurances that these civilian councils will epitomize the “coexistence and brotherhood of peoples,” such overtures are easier said than done. In Syria, ethnic tensions have existed long before the 2011 uprisings, but have increased in intensity in recent years. Support for joint Arab and Kurdish military efforts alone will not be enough to quell hostility between ethnic groups in Raqqa; the international community must formulate a blueprint for post-liberation governance and inter-ethnic cooperation to obviate the potential for future conflict. As historical and contemporary conflicts demonstrate, ethnic tensions often endure well after a conflict ends, particularly if the root causes of the tension are not meaningfully addressed.

A rough history of ethnic tension

As Kurdish forces have liberated areas of Northern Syria from ISIS control, civilian councils have been established to fill the governance vacuum. These governing structures have been moderately successful. In Manbij, which was liberated by Kurdish forces in 2016, reports claim that the newly formed civilian council consists of a proportionate representation of Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen leaders. But representative councils alone have not been sufficient to address existing social cleavages.

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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Court Decision Could Allow Early Release of Human Rights Criminals

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – On May 3, the Argentinian Supreme Court rendered a decision allowing Luis Muina, convicted of human rights abuses, to have his sentence reduced. The decision was based on an Argentinian law, known as the “2×1″ law, which mandates that, after an initial two years, every day that a person spends in pretrial detention counts as two as part of the overall sentence. The court found that, under the “most favorable law” legal principle, which dictates that defendants should benefit from laws which would lessen their sentences, that it should apply to him retroactively.

Thousands of people in Argentina protest the ruling of their Supreme Court which could allow human rights abusers to go free early. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

In the week that followed there were protests in Argentina, as many reportedly feared that the decision would free other human rights criminals. However, the country’s Congress quickly responded to the decision by passing a law rescinding the 2×1 law’s protections for those who had committed human rights abuses during the country’s military dictatorship from 1976-1983. Currently there are 350 former military officers who could have potentially benefitted if the decision is allowed to stand.

Critics point to the Court’s decision as an example of how Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s government has toned down its efforts to seek justice for the atrocities committed during the dictatorship. It should be noted that two of the justices who ruled in favor of the decision were appointed by President Macri.

Whether the Argentine government’s solution will work is set to be tested within the next month as their Supreme Court is set to issue decisions on other cases involving human rights criminals.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Fury in Argentina over ruling that could see human rights abusers walk free – 4 May, 2017

New York Daily News – Argentines unite against law helping human rights abusers – 10 May, 2017

New York Times – Argentines Fight Court’s Leniency for Human Rights Crimes – 13 May, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Making Sense of Argentina’s Ruling on Dictatorship-Era Crimes – 15 May, 2017

International Center for Transitional Justice: In Focus

ICTJ ICTJ World Report
May 2017

In Focus

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Victims’ Views on Truth Seeking and Memorials in Nepal Take Center Stage in New Report from ICTJ and Martin Chautari InstituteVictims’ Views on Truth Seeking and Memorials in Nepal Take Center Stage in New ReportA new report from ICTJ and the Martin Chautari Institute highlights the continued need for truth about the human rights abuses committed during Nepal’s 10-year civil war. The report is aimed at helping those working on truth seeking in Nepal to better understand the gaps that currently exist between victims’ needs and rights, public policy and the current transitional justice process.

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AFRICAThe trial of Ugandan former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen resumed at the International Criminal Court. A UN official in the Democratic Republic of Congo emphasized the need for a dialogue to end the conflict in the Kasai region. More than 500 people have been killed in the central DRC province in the past five months, according to police. International Criminal Court judges rejected a defense appeal to suspend reparations proceedings in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the Congolese opposition leader currently serving an 18-year prison sentence. In 2016, Bemba was found guilty of crimes, including rape and murder, committed by his troops against civilians in the Central African Republic. In Sudan, human rights advocates resisted the National Assembly’s decision regarding constitutional amendments which contradict transitional processes outlined in the country’s 2016 National Dialogue document. A Dutch arms trafficker was convicted for selling weapons to Liberia’s former president Charles Taylor during civil wars that involved mass atrocities, the use of child soldiers, and sexual slavery. An appeals court in Senegal upheld the life sentence of former Chad president Hissene Habre on war crimes charges. A 1992 Chadian Truth Commission accused Habre’s government of systematic torture, saying 40,000 people died during his rule. Gambians have been looking for justice for the crimes of former dictator Yahya Jammeh’s regime, but the new government continues to face many challenges. More than two decades after the genocide in Rwanda, the people of the country reconcile through a monthly day of community service known as Umuganda.

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AMERICASColombia is trying to recover $478 million in public funds that got lost in corruption, which accounts for less than 3% of what allegedly was embezzled, extorted, or misallocated by state officials last year alone. Despite ongoing challenges, the UN Security Council “unanimously and solidly” supports Colombia’s peace process. A court in Chile charged 16 former military officials with the murders of more than a dozen opponents of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1970s, when they acted as operatives of the Caravan of Death. Meanwhile, Argentina’s Senate passed a bill aimed at preventing torturers and murderers during the 1976 to 1983 dictatorship who have been convicted of crimes against humanity from benefiting from a reduction in their sentences. In Peru, indigenous women have brought the case of mass sterilizations during former dictator Alberto Fujimori’s reign to the UN. Parents of Mexico‘s 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students have accused the government of attempting to quietly shut down investigations into the case

Read More…

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ASIAState Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi rejected a UN Rights Council decision to investigate security forces for allegations of crimes against minority Rohingya Muslims, after first partially complying to its recommendations. In Sri Lanka, ethnic Tamils lit lamps and displayed photos framed in flowers of relatives killed in a bloody civil war, marking the eighth anniversary of the end of the fighting. However, a government order this month placed a 14-day ban on all ceremonies near a Catholic church in Mullivaikkal East, the last place to be captured by the Sri Lankan army in May 2009. Documentation Center of Cambodia Director, Youk Chhang, received the Center for Justice and Accountability’s Judith Lee Stronach Human Rights Award for exposing crimes against humanity committed by the Khmer Rouge regime. The UN Refugee Agency reported massive human rights violations and torturous conditions in Malaysia immigration detention centers, signaling flaws in its incarceration systems. In a private policy forum in Manila, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings argued against the “war on drugs” approach in the Philippines, and called for more effective strategies within the country’s justice sector. The Supreme Court in Bangladesh upheld its decision to imprison a powerful Jamaat-e-Islami leader for life on account of crimes against humanity during the country’s Liberation War.

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EUROPEIn Turkey, human rights defender Murat Çelikkan was sentenced to 18 months in prison on “terrorist propaganda” charges for his work with the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem. Professor Beyza Üstün was also sentenced to 15 months, but her sentence has been deferred. The Coalition for RECOM is resuming efforts for a regional truth commission in the former Yugoslavia to establish facts about the 1990s Balkan Wars. The Association of Camp Inmates of Bosnia and Herzegovina commemorated deceased wartime detainees from the 1990s war and called for improved law on social protection. Over one year later, Serbia [selected] (https://www.ictj.org/news/serbia-selects-new-chief-war-crimes-prosecutor) Snezana Stanojkovic as the its new chief war crimes prosecutor to revive criminal justice within the country and combat impunity for crimes against Serbs. The Specialist Chambers (SC) court has been established in Kosovo to prosecute ex-guerillas in the Kosovo Liberation Army for crimes committed during the 1990s Balkan wars. A court in Croatia ordered that the state must pay 106,000 euros in compensation to the family of a Serb killed during Croatia’s 1995 Operation Storm.

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MENAProtestors in Tunisia marched in opposition to the proposed Economic Reconciliation bill and labeled it a contradiction to the country’s 2011 revolution. If passed, the bill would grant amnesty. A Palestinian asylum-seeker accused of war crimes in Syria was tried and sentenced to life in prison by an Austrian court. The trial marks the first case of Syrian war crimes carried out in Austria. In Lebanon, activists marked the 102nd anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide. The country is home to more than 100,000 Armenians.

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Publications

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Justice Mosaics: How Context Shapes Transitional Justice in Fractured Societies

What hope is there for justice for victims of atrocities in profoundly fractured societies, where systems of government have broken down and social and political divisions run deep? What is the role of transitional justice in forging peace in countries like Colombia, after decades of conflict? Or in countries like Tunisia, after years of repression and corrosive corruption?

When No One Calls It Rape: Addressing Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys

Sexual violence against men and boys in times of conflict or repression is alarmingly common— and takes a markedly consistent form across contexts in terms of how it affects victims and societies as a human rights violation that is taboo to talk about. It has been committed in all cultures, geographic regions, and time periods.

More Publications

Upcoming Events

June 08 – 09, 2017

Transnational & Global Dimensions of Justice & Memory Processes in Europe & Latin America Location: ParisView Details

June 25 – 29, 2017

Large-Scale Violence and Its Aftermaths The United States and the World Location: Kean University, New Jersey View Details

More Events
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Law and Order in Russia: Nikolai Gorokhov Returns to Moscow Court After Four-Story Plunge to Release New Evidence on Magnitsky’s Death Cover Up

Nikolai Gorokhov Returns to Moscow Court After Four-Story Plunge to Release New Evidence on Magnitsky’s Death Cover Up

24 May 2017 – Today at 3pm the Moscow Basmanny court will hear a complaint filed by Nikolai Gorokhov, the lawyer representing Sergei Magnitsky’s mother about new evidence of an official cover up of Sergei Magnitsky’s death in custody.

The previous court hearing which had been scheduled for 24 March 2017 in which Mr Gorokhov intended to present this evidence could not go ahead because Mr Gorokhov plunged four stories from his apartment in circumstances which many believe were intended to stop his activities.

The complaint filed by Mr Gorokhov alleges that an official cover up of Sergei Magnitsky’s death was orchestrated by the Russian investigator Strizhov, who closed the Magnitsky death case claiming there was “no crime,” despite injuries on Magnitsky’s body.

The new evidence submitted by Mr Gorokhov shows that investigator Strizhov worked closely with key suspects implicated by Sergei Magnitsky in the US$230 million fraud, while purportedly investigating them.

The new evidence comprises WhatsApp conversations and emails from the so-called “Pavlov Leaks” published on the Internet. The key conversations are between Andrei Pavlov, a key member of the Kluyev organized crime group, and his long-term associate, former Russian Interior Ministry investigator Oleg Urzhumtsev.

The Pavlov Leaks show that there were agreements between investigator Strizhov and members of the Klyuev group one month before investigator Strizhov exonerated Pavlov, Interior Ministry officer Urzhumtsev and other criminal group associates from liability for the US$230 mln theft and its cover up.

Mr Gorokhov filed a complaint against the refusal by the Russian Investigative Committee to investigate the new evidence of abuse of office by investigator Strizhov in Magnitsky’s death investigation.

The complaint will be heard today by judge Safina of Basmanny district court at 3 pm.

For more information, please contact:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky

+44 207 440 1777

e-mail: info@lawandorderinrussia.org

www.lawandorderinrussia.org

billbrowder.com

twitter.com/Billbrowder

U.S. Strikes a Syrian Pro-Assad Regime Convoy

By: Yamillet Brizuela
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

AL-TANF, Syria – The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Thursday, May 18, against the supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime convoy and Iranian-backed militia that neared a Western special forces unit and US-backed rebels’ base in al-Tanf.

Residents walk through damaged streets at town of Zabadani in the Damascus countryside on 18 May 2017. Photo Courtesy by AP.

On Friday, May 19, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (“SOHR”) reported that at least eight members of the pro-Assad regime forces were killed, most of them were of non-Syrian nationalities. SOHR reported that the airstrike destroyed at least four vehicles which were carrying supporters of the regime, suggesting that injuries from the destruction could cause the death toll to rise.

Syria and Russia claimed the U.S airstrike on the convoy was “government terrorism” that caused a “massacre” which killed several people, both civilians and soldiers in al-Tanf. Specifically, the Syrian government stated that the airstrikes were a “blatant attack on forces fighting terrorism.” The Russian government claimed the airstrikes violated Syria’s sovereignty.

On the other hand, the U.S. claimed the airstrike was “defensive” in nature. The U.S. Defense Secretary reported that the U.S. military determined that the convoy posed a threat to the U.S. and partner forces; he also claimed that Russia was warned prior to the airstrike that the convoy was “getting too close to coalition forces.”  The U.S. claimed airstrike to be a signal to President Bashar Assad to keep his forces out of a zone where U.S.-backed rebels are fighting the Islamic State group, and that they will continue to defend themselves against any threat to the coalition or its allies in the area.

This airstrike has been the second of such confrontation between the United States and the pro-Assad regime. In April, U.S. President Donald Trump authorized the launch of dozens of missiles against the Shayrat airbase, destroying a number of key Syrian military assets, in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on civilians believed to have been conducted by the Assad regime that week.

In addition, U.S President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip as president began on Friday, May 19, in the Middle East. Syria’s war and Arab-Israeli peace are said to be the top of his agenda.

For more information, please see:

ABC News- Syria Says US Airstrike Killed Several Soldiers Near Jordan- 19 May 2017

Aljazeera- Syria, Russia Condemn US-led Strike on pro-Assad Forces- 20 May 2017

BBC- Syria and Russia Condemn US-Led Attack on pro-Assad Forces- 19 May 2017

Malaysia Sun- U.S. Claims it Launched Defensive Strikes on pro-Assad Troops, but Syria and Russia Claim Dozens of Civilians and Soldiers Killed- 20 May 2017

Middle East Eye- Syria War: Russia Claims US Attack Killed Civilians- 19 May 2017

Reuters- Syrian Negotiator Calls U.S. Strike ‘Terrorism’ and a ‘Massacre’- 19 May 2017

Reuters- U.S. says Iranian-Directed Convoy Targeted by U.S. Strike in Syria- 19 May 2017

SOHR- 8 Killed Mostly non-Syrians in targeting by Coalition’s warplanes for a Military Convoy of the Regime Forces and the Militiamen Loyal to them in the Syrian Desert- 18 May 2017

Western Europe cracks down on racially charged harassment of government officials

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

Sylvana Simons speaks to the public about her newest book in March. Image courtesy of the Associated Press.

In Italy, a member of the European Parliament was ordered to pay $55,670 in damages to another member of the Parliament, Cecile Kyenge. Ms. Kyenge is Italy’s first black minister, born in the Congo but educated as an ophthalmologist in Italy. Her harasser, Mario Borghezio, had said in a 2013 radio interview that  Ms. Kyenge had “[taken] away a job from an Italian doctor” and that he did not want her to “impose her tribal traditions from the Congo” on Italians.

Before deciding to press charges against Mr. Borghezio, Ms. Kyenge had been given police protection after being physically harassed at a political rally. At the rally, she had bananas thrown at her and was compared to an orangutan by the harassers.

This ruling came at the same time as 20 people in The Netherlands were convicted of online racial and sexist hate speech. Sylvana Simons is a black politician and media personality who had received harassing comments from thousands of people on the internet. Ms. Simons was born in Suriname but raised in the Netherlands. One of her harassers had photo-shopped her face onto a picture of a Ku Klux Klan lynching.

Mr. Borghezio believed that his remarks about Ms. Kyenge were within his rights as a lawmaker to criticize a government minister. He felt as if he was being “politically prosecuted”.

In the Netherlands, four of the 20 convicted were charged with community service while the rest were fined $165 to $500 for their behavior.

Though free speech is valued in both countries, the Dutch court said that when the opinion is an “insult, threat, riot, or discrimination, there is a criminal offense.”

Ms. Kyenge, like Ms. Simons, hope that this verdict will show that racist harassment won’t be tolerated by her country. The Dutch court said they hope that this will deter people from engaging in harassing behavior in the future.

These stories come at a time where right-wing populism is on the rise, bringing with it the resentment of political correctness, or the “culture of tolerance”. It is left unclear whether the decisions by these courts really will prevent future cases of hate speech and defamation.

For more information, please see: 

New York Times – 20 Are Convicted for Sexist and Racist Abuse of Dutch Politician – 18 May 2017

BBC News – Italy’s first black minister ‘vindicated’ by racist slurs verdict – 19 May 2017

New York Times – Italian in Europe’s Parliament Convicted of Defamation for Racial Insult – 19 May 2017

BBC News – Dutch race hate row engulfs presenter Sylvana Simons – 25 November 2016

Aljazeera – Sylvana Simons: Racism is accepted in the Netherlands – 18 January 2017

 

Syria Deeply: (Un)Safe Zones in Syria, Evacuation of Remaining Rebel-Held Damascus Districts and Confrontation Between the U.S. And Syria

Syria Deeply
May 19, 2017
This Week in Syria
Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.
Safe Zones In Syria: As another round of United Nations-led peace talks kicked off in Geneva on Tuesday, Syria Deeply launched its Safe Zones platform.
Russia, Iran and Turkey are not the first to propose creating some form of “de-escalation” zone in Syria. We’ve compiled a comprehensive overview, including original reporting, our own in-depth analysis and thought-provoking expert commentary, of the various plans discussed on the international stage to stem the conflict and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
We’ll keep adding to it over time, providing you with the necessary context and facts as this issue unfolds.
U.S.-Syria Tensions: Diplomatic tensions escalated between the U.S. and the Syrian government this week, concluding in military action. On Thursday, U.S.-led coalition warplanes hit a pro-government convoy advancing “inside an established de-confliction zone” near the al-Tanf base in southern Syria and “posed a threat to U.S. and partner forces,” according to a coalition statement. Syrian state news said there were “a number” of casualties.
U.S. and British special forces use the base to train Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS. Earlier in the week, pro-government forces advanced near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan following a rebel operation that cleared ISIS out of the area.
On Tuesday, the State Department released aerial images of Saydnaya military prison outside of Damascus and other “newly declassified information,” accusing the Syrian government of building and operating a crematorium at the detention center “to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place.” In February, Amnesty International released a report claiming that between 5,000 and 13,000 detainees were executed at Saydnaya during the first five years of the conflict, amounting to between 20 and 50 executions once or twice a week.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced new sanctions on five Syrian people and five Syrian companies “in response to continued acts of violence committed by the Government of Syria.” Among them are President Bashar al-Assad’s cousins Ihab Makhlouf and Iyad Makhlouf and the Bustan charity, which OFAC said regime ally Rami Makhlouf used to create “a vast private network of militias and security-linked institutions … to support and augment Syrian military forces.”
Green Buses Leave Damascus: The last remaining rebels in Qaboun left the Damascus district on Sunday, concluding an agreement between rebels and government forces. Some were sent to rebel-held areas in northern Syria, while others fled to opposition-controlled areas of the Damascus suburbs.
In total, more than 3,000 rebel fighters and their families were bused out of Qaboun over the weekend, following evacuations last week in the adjacent districts of Tishreen and Barzeh.
Read our daily Executive Summaries

 

Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Admits To Being “Brainwashed”

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – Chinese human rights lawyer, Xie Yang was brought up on charges of subversion in 2015. Initially, Xie maintained his innocence.

In recent court proceedings, Xie then altered his statement and plead guilty to charges of subversion and disrupting a court order. Xie stated he was “brainwashed” in Hong Kong and South Korea to promote western constitutionalism in China. Xie appeared in a video where he stated he had not been mistreated in custody by Chinese officials.

Xie’s trial was said to be open by the Chinese government. However, Western journalists and diplomats were denied entry. Many friends and supporters of Xie Yang reported that his confessions during trial appeared rehearsed.

Xie Yang and his wife, Chen Guiqui. Photo courtesy of New York Times.

Since President Xi Jinping took office, his government warns against Western ideals and the threat these ideals can have on national security.  Cases dealing with “land grab victims” and proponents of democratic reform are considered highly sensitive to government authorities in China. Recently, Xie Yang and several human rights lawyers were put on trial dealing with these issues.

Amnesty International has stated that the Chinese government wanted to use Xie Yang’s trial “to discredit his lawyers and the Western media.” The United Nations requested that Chinese authorities release all activists and attorneys being held in custody who have been accused of defending basic rights of Chinese citizens.

Xie Yang’s attorney, Chen Jiangang, who represented him throughout trial was also taken into custody, according to sources close to Xie Yang.

For more information, please see: 

BBC – China human rights lawyer Xie Yang ‘admits being brainwashed’ – 8 May, 2017

NYT – In Reversal, Chinese Lawyer Confesses, and Rights Groups Denounce His Trial – 8, May 2017

Reuters – China begins trial of rights lawyer for ‘subversion of state power’ – 8 May, 2017

 

Syria Deeply: Collecting Evidence of War Crimes in Syria

Collecting Evidence of War Crimes in Syria

Law professor David Crane, who has a record of taking on the prosecution of war criminals, is keeping a detailed record of the events in Syria for future prosecution. His Syrian Accountability Project’s latest report takes a close look at Aleppo.

Written by Kim Bode Published on Read time Approx. 5 minutes
Syria conflict aleppo aftermath
People walk past heavily damaged buildings on March 9, 2017, in the formerly rebel-held al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, which was recaptured by government forces in December 2016. AFP/JOSEPH EID

The Syrian Accountability Project (SAP) at Syracuse University doesn’t know about weekends. “It’s a seven-day-a-week operation,” says project leader and law professor David Crane. The SAP team updates its extensive database constantly and provides quarterly reports to its clients, “which are the United Nations, the [U.S.] Office of the Legal Advisor, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as various countries,” he says.

Since 2011 the SAP has been documenting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. “It’s a neutral effort. We’re not looking at one side or the other, we’re building a trial package against anyone who commits war crimes and crimes against humanity,” says Crane. The trial package is for domestic or international prosecutors in the future who decide to bring a case to court.

Crane is confident that it will happen, it might just take a little longer. He’s got experience.

As founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Crane helped to send Charles Taylor to prison. He created SAP as an organization using “the tried and proven techniques of what we did in West Africa and apply them to the Syrian civil war.”

Syria Deeply spoke with Crane about SAP’s latest research on Aleppo, its techniques and quality control and his viewpoint on the chances of prosecuting war crimes in the context of the Syrian crisis

Syria Deeply: In your latest report “Covered in Dust, Veiled by Shadow: The Siege and Destruction of Aleppo” you provide a historical narrative of the city, going as far back as the 3rd millennium B.C. to when it was known as Ha-lam. Why did you decide to look back so far?

David M. Crane: Like all white papers these are information assets for people who know nothing about Aleppo to people who are deeply involved and everything in between. The purpose is to inform, for example, a policymaker, a diplomat or someone who is in the international criminal business and to allow someone who is not informed at all to read through the white paper and have a basic overview – a four corners overview – of what took place in Aleppo over the past six, seven months. We wanted to also give the important historical context of Aleppo and the tragedy of the destruction of this ancient city.

Syria Deeply: What methodology and tools did you and your team use?

Crane: We work with researchers, investigators and criminal information analysts. We used the same techniques, the same analysis and data collection that we had been using for well over six years, and that is through various sources. We have an incredible amount of data at our fingertips.

We have what we call open source material, which is data that is currently available on the web, social media and what have you. We also have what we call walk-in information; in other words, we received on a regular basis individuals who report to us incidents and situations they want to bring to our attention. Then we have our clandestine methodologies; we’ve been developing an information network within Syria that is reporting to us through clandestine means.

We use this data to build a trial package or, if we have a particular incident that needs international attention and assertion, to create white papers. We did one for the chemical attack [in Khan Sheikhoun]. We had a white paper out within 14 days after the chemical attack.

Syria Deeply: How do you verify the accuracy of all this information?

Crane: Any incident that is asserted, any incident that is known, any incident that there is an allegation we have to verify at least once, if not two times, before we actually consider it an incident. We look at other sources and other ways. Either through open source, other walk-ins or we go back to other assets. Our assets don’t know each other so that they’re not doubling and repeating the same thing. We go out and verify if something has taken place.

Syria Deeply: What are the key findings in this Aleppo report?

Crane: It is a continuation of a horror story that started back in March of 2011. All sides have dropped any kind of decorum as far as treating civilians respectfully under the international humanitarian law principles, which they are violating, which makes them war crimes or crimes against humanity.

We saw, again, unlawful use of weapon systems. We saw weapon systems that were calculated to cause unnecessary suffering. We saw indiscriminate attacks on civilians. We saw the attacks on protected places, as we say in international humanitarian law, such as hospitals, churches, mosques. What we wanted to do with this white paper is underscore the microcosm of the horror that is Syria in and of itself.

Syria Deeply: What kind of consequences do you hope publication of the report will have?

Crane: The Syrian Accountability Project and an ancillary I Am Syria program aim to keep the Syrian narrative in discussion. Syria has slowly but surely taken a back seat to ISIS and is slowly but surely slipping into the middle of the paper, or is not in the paper at all anymore. Like Syria Deeply, we wanted to make sure that the public just doesn’t walk away in this terrible 24-, actually, 5-minute news cycle that we find ourselves in.

The white paper is publicly available through the internet. Obviously, key people have had it and responded very positively towards it. It also goes out to high-school students around the world. We have over 12,000 teachers that use our lesson plans for Syria through the I Am Syria campaign on a weekly basis.

We need to show the people of the world that we have an industrialized killing machine going on not quite seen since Saddam Hussein. Also, the industrialized way they’re doing it, slowly but surely with a great deal of organization, we haven’t seen that since Nazi Germany.

Syria Deeply: As founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, how do you see chances of prosecuting war crimes in the context of the Syrian crisis?

Crane: Right now, there is no chance. The geopolitical situation does not have the capability of doing anything. I don’t see anything happening for the next five or 10 years. However, that shouldn’t dissuade us as far as continuing our work.

President Assad and his henchmen know who we are, they hear our footsteps and someday there’ll be a knock at the door. There is no statute of limitations for international crimes. So whether Assad is prosecuted next week or 20 years from now, he will be prosecuted. That’s why it’s so critical to have a very professionally put together set of evidentiary documents that they can take to court because this may not happen for some time.

I took down Charles Taylor and indicted him, and he was found guilty for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity and the destruction of over 1.2 million human beings. He never thought that he would be held accountable for that, and he now sits in a prison, for the rest of his life.

Time is not the essence. We have to have the patience or perseverance and a desire to keep moving forward. But he knows we’ve got him, it’s just a matter of time. When there is a geopolitical opportunity, I wish he and all the others who bear the greatest responsibility for all the tragedy will be held accountable.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Venezuelan Protestors Tried in Military Courts

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS, Venezuela – Earlier this year, during a huge economic crisis, protests began against the ruling government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. In April, the protests escalated after the country’s Supreme Court, controlled by Maduro loyalists, attempted to dissolve the country’s legislative National Assembly. Now Maduro has taken another apparent attempt to silence the critics of his government by prosecuting civilian protestors before military courts.

Opposition supporters in Venezuela rally against the Maduro government as the military takes position in the background. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

According to the BBC, at least 50 have been detained thus far, while the New York Times estimates that the minimum number of actual detentions reaches as high as 120. If the protests continue, it is likely that number will rise.

The trial of civilians in military courts is traditionally forbidden, both by international law and Venezuela’s own constitution except in crimes, “of a military nature.” However, the prosecution of these protestors in military, rather than civilian courts, is claimed to be justified by the Venezuelan government’s Zamora Plan. On its official blog, Human Rights Watch describes it as an initiative meant to address, “internal and external attacks that threaten the country’s peace and sovereignty.” However, critics of this action claim it is nothing more than an attempt by Maduro’s government to crack down on and silence the protests.

A researcher from Human Rights Watch claimed that the shift is because the government can control the results in said courts. Although, it should be noted that even in civilian courts, liberal judges and prosecutors have caused hundreds to be jailed in the past. Rights groups point to the fact that there is a different standard of evidence in military courts, as well as the lack of due process protections for defendants as proof that the system is rigged against them. However, at least for now it does not appear that this move has dissuaded protestors from taking to the streets.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Venezuela Tries Protestors in Military Court ‘Like We Are in a War’ – 12 May 2017

BBC – Venezuela military courts ‘used against protesters’ – 9 May 2017

Human Rights Watch – Civilians Tried by Military Courts – 8 May 2017

NBC News  – Venezuela Protests and Economic Crisis: What Is Going On? – 8 May 2017

New York Times – At Least 3 Die in Venezuela Protests Against Nicolás Maduro – 19 April 2017

War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12, Issue 4

 


FREDERICK K. COX
INTERNATIONAL LAW CENTER

Founder/Advisor
Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 5
May 15, 2017

Editor-in-Chief
James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email warcrimeswatch@pilpg.org and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.

Contents

AFRICA

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

WEST AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon

Mali

EAST AFRICA

Uganda

Kenya

Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)

Somalia

NORTH AFRICA

Libya

EUROPE

Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia

MIDDLE EAST AND ASIA

Iraq

Syria

Yemen

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine

North Korea

AMERICAS

North & Central America

South America

TOPICS

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Terrorism

Piracy

Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives

WORTH READING


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